Dubai-based serial entrepreneur, Joy Ajlouny, is a self-proclaimed ‘bull in a china shop’.
She’s been described as a 'grenade' in her field, and by never taking no for an answer she believes she’s, ‘gamified rejection’.
Born in California to Palestinian parents, the investor & advisor has carved out a reputation for successful startups & business ventures worldwide.
She’s also raised more than $100mn in funding.
She shared with Inspire Middle East, her top tips for young entrepreneurs looking to raise capital.
“You’ve got literally the first two minutes to get your value proposition across, to make the investors understand what it is you have that’s exciting,” she told Rebecca McLaughlin-Eastham. “Pitching is everything and in the beginning you’re not profitable, so you have to sell your team and you have to sell the idea. They have to believe in you.”
Ajlouny is the co-founder of Fetchr, the Silicon Valley-backed tech company which disrupted the delivery-courier sector in the Middle East region, by eliminating the need for a physical address.
The business, which now operates in five countries with more than 4,500 staff, was titled ‘Number 1. Startup in the Middle East’ by Forbes.
According to Startup Genome, the US-based startup policy advisors, the global startup economy creates an estimated $3 trillion in value.
Seven of the top 10 companies operate within the tech space, and the report states that more than 70% of global startups saw their revenue drop since the start of the pandemic.
The Middle East’s startup scene is rapidly developing, but like the rest of the world, it’s reeling from the COVID-19 crisis.
That’s not to say there isn’t hope, with SG’s report referencing that approximately 50 tech unicorns were founded between 2007 and 2009.
Moreover, businesses that raised venture capitalist money in the Great Recession of 2008 included Facebook & LinkedIn.
Startups are a key driver of wealth and job creation, and Middle Eastern cities like Abu Dhabi and Dubai made the top 100 of Startup Genome’s Emerging Ecosystem Rankings.
Abu Dhabi ambitions
The UAE is where Ajlouny calls home, and she’s especially inspired by what she’s sees taking shape in the capital, namely the global tech ecosystem Hub71.
“I say this with a lot of pride, what the government of Abu Dhabi - and basically the Abu Dhabi Investment Office – what they’re doing, it’s spectacular,” she says. “They’re building an infrastructure to invest in startups, and not just startups, but venture capital. They understand that startups are the future and the future has to be investing in tech, in bright ideas and the youth.”
When comparing the business models of Silicon Valley in the United States and MENA’s tech startup hubs, Ajlouny is encouraged by the region’s ‘blank canvas’ potential.
“In this part of the world, what’s exciting is that there’s so much that needs disruption,” she told Inspire. “There’s huge population here that needs disruption in...FinTech, EdTech, HealthTech. I think the good news is that policy here can be done overnight. So, there’s an opportunity here for real change, real fast, because it’s not being tied in to bureaucracy.”
Women in business
It’s estimated that less than 3% of global venture capital is raised by women.
The tech space, says Ajlouny, has also been traditionally been dominated by men. Adding that whilst a gender rebalance is occurring in the sector, its emergence has been slow.
As a passionate supporter of women positively disrupting the conventional world of work, Ajlouny hopes that the next generation of MENA startups, will be not only be pitching, but also playing in a billion-dollar tech league.
“The ones that do get funding, and it is a known fact - and I say this with pride - that the returns for women venture capitalist’s are higher,” she says. “And the returns on women founders, have been hitting it out of the ball park with billion-dollar companies.”
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With contributions from Nancy Sarkis and Arthur de Oliveira.